Influence of Productivity on the Acquisition of Inflectional Markers

Laila Kjærbæk, Hans Basbøll, René dePont Christensen

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Influence of productivity on the acquisition of inflectional markers

Studies on acquisition of inflectional morphology often distinguish between ‘regular’ and ‘irregular’ inflection. This distinction originates from studies of English, which is characterized by having one default inflectional marker for a grammatical category (e.g. the PL suffix -s) and a minor number of exceptions to this default rule. We find this distinction rather inexpedient since this is not the case for all languages (e.g. Danish, German). In order to address this issue we have developed a scale with three degrees of productivity. Productivity is here defined as the ability of the inflectional marker to occur on new words. For the PL system this means the ability to add the PL marker (stem change + suffix) to a new noun in order to form a new PL noun.

Productivity scale for the Danish PL markers:
Fully Productive: a-schwa (/ɐ/) suffix without phonemic stem change.
Semi-Productive: e–schwa (/ə/) and zero suffix without phonemic stem change.
Unproductive: markers with phonemic stem change and markers with the foreign suffixes s, a and i.

We predict the error direction to go from Unproductive to Semi-Productive to Fully Productive PL markers.

Empirical data
Task 1: semi-naturalistic picture based elicitation task formed as semi-structured interviews. Participants: 80 monolingual Danish-speaking children between 3-9 years.
Task 2: picture based elicitation task. The test material consists of 48 stimulus items. Participants: 160 monolingual Danish-speaking children between 3-10 years.

Results and conclusion
The study shows that PL acquisition is affected by morphophonological category: children produce more correct PL forms of nouns with a Fully Productive PL marker than of nouns with a Semi-Productive or Unproductive PL marker. Children overgeneralize the Fully Productive and Semi-Productive PL markers but never the Unproductive. The error direction goes from Unproductive to Semi-Productive to Fully Productive PL markers.
Publikationsdato15. jul. 2014
StatusUdgivet - 15. jul. 2014
BegivenhedInternational Congress for the Study of Child Language - University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Holland
Varighed: 14. jul. 201418. jul. 2014
Konferencens nummer: 13


KonferenceInternational Congress for the Study of Child Language
LokationUniversity of Amsterdam